Why to Watch TV on Vacation
Why spend your valuable time on vacation watching the boob-tube? True, you don’t want television-watching to get in the way of going out, seeing the sights, meeting people, and working on that all-important tan (skin cancer prevention advocates: no emails please). But when you have some down time, instead of turning on your computer and connecting with the same old people from home, consider turning on the local TV and sit yourself down for a special kind of cultural education.
Television can be a wonderful view into the local culture of your vacation destination. If nothing else, it can offer some hearty laughs – something you can always use more of while traveling. Here’s a personal list of our favorite TV experiences around the world:
- We admit it: we got hooked on the Chilean soap opera, Fácil de Amar. If you’re on a short trip, it’s less likely you would get involved enough to care if Jorge will disobey his mother and run off with the cute but poor empleada, the love of his life. But for longer stays, the soap opera has no rival. This nightly addiction helped us learn the accents and colloquialisms of Chilean Spanish, gave us a way to bond with people who we just met (since at that time, most everyone watched one of the three state channels’ nightly soaps), and clued us into some of the country’s unique qualities.
- Our travel partner and us still talk about this next show with a mixture of disbelief, wonder, and gasping-for-breath-laughter. While in Italy, we ended up watching an Italian beauty pageant that offered all the standard fare: swimsuits, gowns, and talent. Not being the type to normally watch beauty pageants, we would have turned it off if not for the part when one contestant’s talent ended up being miming a volleyball game. She “served” an invisible ball, hit it back to herself, back and forth for several minutes. The game was pretty good, too – there were spikes and everything. We were enthralled and could not look away. While we’re not sure this was actually a window into Italian culture, it sure made our night a little livelier. Or was that the Italian wine we were drinking?
- While watching the local news in Ireland, we found out about some musicians that would be playing in a pub near our B&B. We ended up going and having some fantastic “crack” (as they say in Ireland) at a place and listening to a group we wouldn’t have been able to read about in travel books beforehand.
We usually try to stay in small and locally-owned lodges or B&Bs that either don’t have televisions at all or would not offer international cable. In a big hotel with all the amenities, it’s too easy to turn on CNN just to hear your own language or to try to keep up with what’s happening in the world. But you can do that when you get back. Stay in the moment (and the location), give local TV a shot and see what you find.
An addendum: Even cable TV might be worth your while if you’re trying to unwind after a long day of sightseeing. In Costa Rica, after riding the waves and walking around rainforests all day, most of the family was dead tired and able to sleep that night. We was more wound up and ended up watching an episode of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations when Anthony Bourdain was in India raving about a Bombay burger. This didn’t necessarily add anything to our Costa Rica trip but it did give us some good ideas for our next trip!